(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Randy Frazee entitled, “BELIEVE.”
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
I wonder what he was thinking?
Did he regret what he did or energized by it?
Isolated, did he feel alone or the presence of God?
Did he have questions as to what he started or confident it was a good work God would see through to completion?
October 31, 1521…honestly we don’t know exactly what happened on that day. But we do know more than likely Martin Luther spent it in the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach Germany. He was in disguise as “Knight George.” It wasn’t a medieval Halloween costume, it was to protect him from those that wanted to rid the earth of him.
Four years prior on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther had posted the infamous “95 Theses” which desired debate against the teaching of indulgences that his study of Scripture found contrary to the teaching of grace. Convicted by the truth of God’s Word and a strong desire to remove the false teaching from the church, Martin Luther became the focus of ire by the pope and the Catholic church.
In April of 1521 (500 years ago!), he stood before a “diet” or group of religious authorities. They listed multiple of his writings and told him to recant or face excommunication. Excommunication wasn’t just “I’m not welcome in the church anymore” but it was “we have the right to burn you at the stake as a heretic.” So it was a big deal.
After prayer and wrestling, Luther stood his ground and said at the end of the hearing:
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
He left the city of Worms on April 25, under a promise of safe passage back to his home. However on May 4 as he traveled, cohorts of his friend, Elector the Wise, “captured him” and brought him to safety in the Wartburg Castle.
He could have been bitter. He did struggle at times with depression. But he used the nearly a year that he was there to translate the New Testament into the German language, a first for German-speaking people.
So what was he doing 500 years ago on October 31, 1521? I don’t know for sure, but maybe he took time to reflect on key passages that God worked with conviction in his heart to stand on the truth of God’s Word and the message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, found in Scripture alone.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
For our culture this weekend is a day to dress up and get candy or celebrate that which is death and darkness. As a Christian (even if you aren’t Lutheran), let your October 31 include a pause of reflection and prayer that we live in the shadow of grace exhibited by our heavenly Father in Christ; rediscovered and defended by his faithful servant Martin Luther; and given to us by God’s Spirit for our hope and peace today!
Apply: I encourage you to review a bit of Luther’s life. Here’s a post on the Diet of Worms which happened 500 years ago this year! https://lutheranreformation.org/history/the-diet-of-worms/
Prayer: (A hymn by Martin Luther)
1 From depths of woe I cry to Thee, In trial and tribulation;
Bend down Thy gracious ear to me, Lord, hear my supplication.
If Thou rememb’rest ev’ry sin, Who then could heaven ever win
Or stand before Thy presence?
2 Thy love and grace alone avail To blot out my transgression;
The best and holiest deeds must fail To break sin’s dread oppression.
Before Thee none can boasting stand, But all must fear Thy strict demand
And live alone by mercy.
3 Therefore my hope is in the Lord And not in mine own merit;
It rests upon His faithful Word To them of contrite spirit
That He is merciful and just; This is my comfort and my trust.
His help I wait with patience.
4 And though it tarry through the night And till the morning waken,
My heart shall never doubt His might Nor count itself forsaken.
O Israel, trust in God your Lord. Born of the Spirit and the Word,
Now wait for His appearing.